As the federal government takes aim at big cyber pests with its new anti-spam legislation, in effect on July 1, it is likely small players will feel the impact of the crackdown most, according to Envision Financial.

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Businesses of all sizes are scrambling to be compliant with the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) governing commercial electronic messages (CEM), but there is more at stake for small businesses. Considering that 98% of all businesses in B.C., for instance, are small businesses, the new spam law is a big deal.

“Many small businesses rely on email marketing because it’s cost-efficient and easy,” says Valerie Robertson, privacy and risk analyst at Envision Financial. “Things like email newsletters are often staples of a small business’ marketing strategy.”

At the centre of CASL is the issue of consent. Under the new law, businesses must receive clear permission to send a CEM to an electronic address.

“Businesses bear the burden of proof,” Robertson says. “When it comes to enforcement of CASL, businesses will have to be able to provide evidence they received express consent to send a CEM to an electronic address.”

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Figuring out how to get valid consent, what the definition of an electronic address is and understanding the related points of the new law is just one more task for businesses that don’t want a key piece of their marketing strategy to evaporate overnight. Or worse yet, incur a hefty fine that could sink the entire operation.

“Most small businesses have the bulk of their staff resources focused on sales and service,” says Robertson. “With scarce resources, it’s likely at-capacity owners or managers who will end up having to research and understand requirements for being compliant and then put a plan into action.”

A good starting point for small business owners is the Government of Canada and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s anti-spam legislation websites. It is also important to note once the law is in effect, there is a 36-month grace period that can be used to seek express consent from recipients.

Despite the initial challenge CASL presents to small businesses, there is an upside for small businesses that use email marketing ethically, notes Robertson.

“A clean mailing list with confirmed subscribers is a more effective list. You’re actually reaching those who want the email and won’t be annoyed by it and delete it in a heartbeat.”

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